Skirmish, *Capt. Tristram Thomas vs. Lt. Nairne & Col. William Henry Mills, July 25, 1780.
Where: 34.4848798 -79.7206161 Hunt's Bluff
Maps: [map notes]
- Terry W. Lipscomb, Names in South Carolina, XXII: p.37, "South Carolina Revolutionary Battles, Part Three", English Dept., Univ. of South Carolina, Winter, 1975:
Two months previously, when Charleston was surrendering to the British, Congress had belatedly sent a Continental army to the city's re-lief. That army was now in central North Caro-lina, preparing to march against Cornwallis's forces. The British began to withdraw from some of their advance posts. In Cheraw, Major Archibald McArthur evacuated the 71st Regiment and fell back towards Camden, sending some sick troops of his command down the Pee Dee River in boats to Georgetown. This flotilla was under the command of Lieutenant Nairne, with a Loyalist escort commanded by Colonel William Henry Mills. The Patriot militia of the area decided to surprise this expedition. Let by Captain Tristram Thomas, they selected a position at Hunt's Bluff opposite a sudden bend in the river and quickly constructed a battery of wooden logs resembling cannon. When the British boats came into view. Thomas made an impressive demonstration and demanded unconditional surrender. While this spectacle engaged the attention of the British, the Loyalist militia mutinied and made prisoners of their comrades. Many of these Loyalists were actually Patriots who had simply enlisted in Mills's force, and it is probable that they had a prior understanding with Captain Thomas.l0 Hunt's Bluff is located on Great Pee Dee River five miles west of Blenheim, in present Marlboro County. The action there took place on July 25, 1780.
Footnote: 10 Draper, 80-82; Landrum, 118-123. Draper locates this battle in North Carolina, but Landrum, whose home was in the immediate vicinity, proposes a more exact location in South Carolina.
- Alexander Gregg, History of the Old Cheraws, Richardson And Company, 1867, p.316-317.
On the day that the British relinquished their post at Cheraw, the inhabitants, distressed by their previous depredations and disgusted with their conduct,
took up arms. Preparatory to his departure, M'Arthur had made an arrangement for transporting a number of his sick, with the captured negroes, by boats to George -town. They were to be under the care of Lord Nairne, and the whole under the new-made British colonel, William Henry Mills,* with a military escort, composed of a portion of the militia of the country who had taken the oath of allegiance.
Hearing of the projected expedition down the river, a party of neighbouring Whigs, under the lead of James Gillespie, collected at Bedingfields,+ a short distance from
Cheraw, and determined to gather a larger force and surprise the enemy. As they went on their numbers increased, and the command was assigned to Major Tristram Thomas. In the meantime, with the departure of the boats, M'Arthur commenced his retreat towards Black Creek.
The Whigs fixed upon Hunt's Bluff as the most favorable point for intercepting the expedition. A battery of wooden guns was hastily constructed, and placed immediately on the bank, in a sudden bend of the river. In due season, as the slowly-moving flotilla appeared, the most imposing demonstration that they could present was made by the command of the gallant Thomas, and an unconditional surrender demanded. It is not improbable that there was a secret understanding with some of the leading men of the militia under Colonel Mills. However this may have been, no resistance was attempted, and the surprise was complete. At the same time, a large boat coming up from George-town, well stored with necessaries for Major M'Arthur's force, was seized for the use of the American army. Colonel Mills succeeded in getting away, and made his escape to Georgetown.++ The other new-made British officers of the militia were taken prisoners by the party under Major Thomas, and with some of their men and the sick, more than a hundred in number, carried prisoners into North Carolina. The British Commander, and Tarleton also, as will be seen, spoke of it afterwards as a mutiny, making no allusion to the well-planned surprise by the Whigs, but for which the expedition might have reached George-town in safety. The negroes, of course, were recaptured and returned to their owners. This effective blow struck increased terror into the enemy, already alarmed, and encouraged the inhabitants to more determined and unyielding resistance. It was the first brilliant exploit yet achieved upon the Pedee, and occurred just at a time when the most important moral effects were likely to follow in its train.
Footnotes: * Lee's " Memoirs of the Southern Campaign," vol i. p. 162. +Now Irby's Mills, three miles from Cheraw. ++ Ramsay's " Revolution in S. C.,vol. ii. p. 140.
- NBBAS:Two P.208-209.
Revlist post:Mars Bluff, South Carolina, 25 July 1780
- Sherman's Calendar.... p.143. To avoid long downloads, use option to "Save and view this PDF in Reader".
listing for July 1780 7/26/1780 Mars Bluff (Hunt's Bluff). American victory.
Confidence level:: See above.